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Marvel's Agent Carter Review: "The Iron Ceiling"

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One of my favorite aspects of Peggy Carter is how she handles her annoyance with contemporaries who undervalue her. So far, we’ve seen her told to answer phones, take the lunch order, file things…secretary work. There’s nothing shameful about the tasks of a secretary. But when one is as badass and capable as Peggy Carter, being limited to clerical tasks does not seem like a smart allocation of resources. Still, no matter what mundane task she’s given, Agent Carter not only handles it without complaint—she still manages to covertly ensure that the real work gets done.

This week we begin the second half of Marvel’s Agent Carter. With that came strong character development for Peggy’s down-the-hall neighbor, Dottie Underwood. We also heard a surprising confession from Agent Thompson. Dooley made his smartest move yet, while Sousa came closer to an upsetting truth. Best of all though, was tonight’s appearance from the Howling Commandos, who all have a higher opinion of Peggy’s skills and abilities than those with whom she works every day.

“The Iron Ceiling” began with a Soviet training facility that really should have been happening inside a red room. This is clearly the beginnings of the program that trained extraordinary fisticuff artist Natasha Romanoff. We see young girls chained to beds, denied proper nourishment (evidenced by the gleeful sharing of a small roll), and memorizing Disney cartoons—probably as a means to develop a convincing American (princess) accent. Deep cover, you know. We see a single blonde girl who shares her roll one minute, and breaks the neck of her friend the next. Boy, those Russians are heartless, or so we’re meant to believe. That ruthless blonde girl is non other than Dottie Underwood. So she’s not one of ours. Who is she? What does she want? For starters, she wants to check out Peggy’s room with stolen keys. From this, we learn that Peggy does occasionally let her guard down. Her experience as a spy hasn’t yet led her to think that all people are inherently untrustworthy. Cool!

After a reminder that Peggy has had her fill of Howard Stark, and by extension—Mr. Jarvis, she heads to work at the SSR. Peggy is clear in saying that even though her colleagues don’t see her full value, she’d rather work for them than a self-important liar like Stark. At the office, Peggy wastes no time breaking the code that the official code-breaker couldn’t break. Now they know what the secret typewriter is saying. But are these genuine messages, or meant to send the SSR on a wild goose chase? No matter, Peggy is determined to go to Russia with the team to find out. After some cajoling, Dooley agrees.

Before we know it, the away team is on the ground and the Howling Commandos are there. Is it racist of me to have assumed that the black guy was Agent Triplett’s grandfather? Maybe just wishful thinking. He wasn’t. As the episode goes on, we slowly see that men who know they are badasses are not threatened by women doing the same job as them. Those with giant chips on their shoulders are. When we learn that Agent Thompson got his Navy cross for murdering men who came to him with the white flag of surrender—we can’t help but think a little less of him. After all, how many opportunities to tell the truth must he have had? If you’re going to surrender though, sneaking into the enemy camp while they’re sleeping is not the best way. Could the white flag have been a cover for an enemy sneak attack?

Back at the SSR, Sousa is still determined to find the woman in the photo from Episode One. When a practical joke ends with Sousa seeing that Peggy Carter and the mysterious blonde have the same marks on their shoulder? The look on his face tells us that he’s thinking the worst. We don’t know what Sousa is going to do next—but we do know that he didn’t immediately consult Chief Dooley, nor did he immediately question Peggy upon her return home. Meanwhile, Dottie Underwood uses Peggy’s stolen keys to search her apartment. Dottie finds (and replaces) Peggy’s trap string, rifles through most of her things, and eventually finds the photos taken with Howard Starks camera pen. Dottie must have thought she found all there was to find—since she stopped short of finding the vial of Captain America’s blood. Given her origins, Dottie must have a specific assignment here, probably on behalf of Leviathan. But we don’t know yet.

Dooley has a few drinks with a guy played by John Glover (Lionel Luther from Smallville). Dooley is slowly piecing together that Howard Stark is actually being framed for treason. This is supported by the information Peggy, Thompson, and the team bring back from their mission—with a helpful Russian psychiatrist in tow. Presumably, Stark will be exonerated by the end of this thing. With three episodes to go, they’d better get a move on. We’ve been promised that we’ll meet Peggy’s future-husband in the weeks to come. Being girly, I’m stoked for that.

Marvel’s Agent Carter gave us splendid action this week, along with murderous children, Howling Commandos, and some real recognition for the amazing abilities of Peggy Carter. Peggy Carter is another reason fans are delighted that Marvel has ditched the antiquated comics code. Three more episodes remain, and I can’t wait!


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